This past week, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to read the writing of several friends. One of these friends lives across the state, one is traveling through Australia at the moment, and the two others form my local writing group that meets every other week an hour from my town. Despite these geographic differences, I am able to comment on everyone’s works through Google Docs. (FYI: This online word processor is a super easy way for writers to share documents with each other and write comments within the document!)
All four of these writers lean towards very different genres but all were looking for feedback on their works in progress this week. I have been reading one work a day for the last couple days, and today, I will finish up with the last one.
I don’t normally read over so many works in one week, but it just so happened that several requests lined up all at once. I am grateful to know such talented and creative people and while reading over each of their stories, I reflected on the mutual benefits that come with writers sharing their works in progress with fellow writers.
As the reader, I get to experience my friends’ writing in advance. There is something very beautiful about watching an idea evolve into a short story or novel. One of my friend’s stories has already been read over once by an agent and is being sent in again by request. It is pretty cool to think I am in the process of reading stories which may become the next bestsellers!
Sampler of Genres
I also find that as a writer myself, I am inspired by my friends’ dedication and creativity that show through in their writing. The works I read this week ranged from historical fiction to science fiction and fantasy, and I found it impossible to not want to write in every genre after reading them. One of my friends’ work was a detective story, something I wouldn’t normally read, but her plot was one that got me thinking about the genre in new ways, including her crossover into sci-fi.
A Second Opinion
When I’ve had my own writing looked over, I have found the feedback invaluable. Hearing other people’s interpretations of my work helps me determine if I have succeeded in telling a story the way that I wanted to tell it. Often, the reader will point out a weak word choice or ask for clarity about a scene in the story, a signal that I have not gotten my point across and need to revise.
I have also gotten helpful feedback on the overall structure and tone of works. For example, when I first started my blog, a writer friend suggested I forget the rule teachers pounded into my head of never using contractions in “real” writing. I am so thankful this friend brought that detail to my attention, as I hadn’t noticed how much more formal (i.e., too formal) my blog sounded without them.
The Artist at Work
Reading other people’s writing helps me learn about their own processes for developing characters and constructing plots. When a friend asks me for advice about a certain element of their story, for example, whether a character is believable or whether a sequence of scenes makes sense, it helps me to remember to pay attention to these things when I am writing stories of my own.
The on-going conversation about story craft and development is one that keeps important components of writing fresh in my mind as both a reader and writer. Both when my work is being read and when I am reviewing someone else’s story, I am continuously improving my own writing simply by closely focusing on the subtle complexities of story-building.
Sharing writing has proven to be a rich experience for me. Perhaps the best part about doing so is being reminded that I am not alone in my enthusiasm nor my struggles with writing. There is a global network of writers out there, and we are all trying to give life to the stories within us. By helping one another do so, we become stronger writers ourselves.
Do you share your work with other writers? Have you learned anything from doing so? Comment below and tell us about it!